Brits could be given a 'try before you buy' period when it comes to mobile phones, in a bid to stamp out disappointment over a network's coverage.

The recommendation came from the Communications Consumer Panel, after research by Ofcom revealed that 56 percent of consumers and 91 per cent of small businesses have experienced network problems, with around a third claiming it was a regular occurrence.

"While all the focus is on rolling out new services like mobile broadband, our research reveals that large numbers of consumers and small businesses are still having problems making even basic voice calls," said Anna Bradley, chairwoman of the Communications Consumer Panel.

It is essential that consumers aren't trapped into contracts that don't give them the coverage they need."

O2 said it already has a 'try before you buy' scheme in place.

"We offer a 14-day cancellation policy for our mobile services. Customers buying directly from O2 may cancel their contract and return their SIM card and handset within 14 days," 02 said.

"In addition, for home broadband and mobile broadband, we offer a 30-day happiness guarantee, which allows customers to try the service at home and in their local area."

While Orange said would-be customers can use its Orange coverage tracker service eon its website, to work out how good their network coverage will be.

However, the network added that "local and physical conditions, such as building materials and atmospheric conditions, or environmental obstacles like tunnels, dips, cuttings and wooded areas" could affect network signals.

"As such, no mobile operator can guarantee continuous network coverage, which can be affected by factors outside our control," Orange added.

James Parker, broadband manager at comparison website said: "A move to allowing mobile users to 'try before they buy' will give more people the power to trial a service or provider and its product".

"Recent research by showed three-quarters said their mobile phone provider failed to convey the product details appropriately. Poor service combined with 24 month contracts becoming common place in the past year has led to people locking into inappropriate mobile deals. Hopefully these moves will lead to better service across the board and encourage telecoms providers to offer customers a fairer deal with greater choice to suit their needs."

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